When The Crowds Are Gone
For some reason there is very little English language coverage of this. It's not exactly the best image of Egypt, but pretending it did not happen will not lead to progress. And by not letting this out to the world we are pretending it did not happen.
I have to be honest, this is one of those times when I find myself left with no choice but to feel ashamed of being Egyptian. It is one of those times when I feel like I don't want to be in Egypt. When I feel like I want protect all the women that I care about (relatives, friends... etc) from this dark side of Egypt.
All my factual information is from Arabic language Egyptian blogs reporting eyewitness accounts. Non-factual information is from other Arabic language blogs that I've read about this. I am going to summarize this issue without stating my opinion for now. References are at the bottom.
On October 23rd and 24th, large crowds of men sexually harassed women in the streets of downtown Cairo. Some pictures can be found at the bottom of this Post.
- The crowds seem to have initially gather at a movie theatre where some actors were present for a movie premier. Tickets to the movie ran out and people started breaking glass and stealing posters.
- The first day involved more unconcentrated/disorganized harrassments. the second day involved larger crowds approaching girls at a time before surrounding them/her and groping them/her.
- There was no police involvement though Egyptian State Security were no more than 5 minutes away, stationed at Gam3et El Dowal and the American Embassy.
- The crowds did not spare women that were with their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, relatives.
- The second day harrassments lasted for more than 4 hours.
- The men's ages ranged from 10 to 40.
- Fights between the men sometimes ensued over who gets to assault the victim.
- Some bloggers report police officers receiving bribes to leave the area.
- One eyewitness recounts a large crowd of youth (shabab) that run after a woman in her early twenties when she trips and falls. The men then start groping her and take off her clothes. The woman gets up, runs, and hides inside a restaurant. The men surround the restaurant until someone shouts, "there is another one at ....". The crowds then run to that location to find another woman completely surrounded by hundreds of men trying to feel her and take off her clothes. A taxi driver takes that woman in his car but the men surround the car and shout for the girl to come out. A Security Officer (appears to be non-government) tries to fend the people off by hitting them with his baton. The crowds do not easily disperse until they see two women wearing the overall Saudi/Gulf veil & abaya walking alone. The crowds then completely surround them, before touching them and taking off their veils. They attempt to take their clothes off while 10/11 year old boys get in their abayas.
- A well known actress, Ola Ghanem, was seen surrounded by her bodyguards fending off the crowds but were unable to completely protect the actress.
- A woman in a veil and abaya is harassed by men who take off her abaya before two building Security guys took her into the building and locked the door to protect her.
- A woman in tighter pants and a normal shirt is harassed and men take off her shirt and bra. A security person takes her into a shop fending off people with a stick.
- Much worse assaults are reported by the word of mouth but are not witnessed. One in which a woman was sexually assaulted against a wall after taking off all her clothes.
- Men cheered this before attacking a victim, "yaay, we will f***, we will f***". (yaay is my rough translation for 'heyeh').
- And when they find another victim, "another woman, another woman".
- And when they see women in veil & abaya, "go Saudi, go Saudi". (go is my rough translation for 'beep beep').
- And when surrounding a taxi and calling for a victim to get out of the car, "get out you sl*t, we will show you". The woman was later forced out like they wanted!
- Some bloggers warned women against entering the troubled areas, and most listened. Some women sought protection with the bloggers as they had cameras. The men did not assault these women fearing that they might be journalists.
- Some men were observed to use their belts to ward off the crowds and then take the victim in a taxi and flee.
- Some shop owners sprayed water to disperse the crowds and hailed for the women to come inside.
The possible causes:
The overwhelming response from Egyptian blogosphere is obviously outrage. Though the response is emotional and angry, I was able to identify some possible causes of this incident that were suggested. They might overlap and contradict, but here they are anyway:
- People were under the added pressure of the fast during Ramadan abstaining from 'sin'. On Eid El Fetr, ending Ramadan, the men could finally go back to the routine and all the energy was released at once.
- Marriage in Egypt is not cheap. Poverty has caused men to marry later in life rather than in their 20's.
- The lack of sexual freedom in Egypt. Premarital sex is a taboo; two consenting adults cannot very easily have sex.
- The lack of brothels or sexual outlets, even for money.
- Education in Egypt is inadequate and insufficient. In other words, people that are educated were not educated properly in addition to the large number of uneducated people.
- Religious education/awareness is insufficient.
- Lack of law enforcement.
- Inequality between men and women as women are viewed as second rate citizens and have a lower status among men.
- The presence of some freedoms and lack of others. In other words, men can fairly easily find porn, and semi-nude singers are featured in the media yet a man cannot easily find a sexual partner.
Eyewitness reports are from Malcolm X and Speaks Freely.
Opinions are from Takhareef, Wa7da_Masreya, Charkawy, GreenData, Johnny Bravo, and ElHaweya, among others.